March 12, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST
We gave it a B+

Was any rock star ever more Vegas-ready than Elton John? And shouldn’t Celine just cede her 4,100-seat Colosseum at Caesars Palace to him now? (Not that she’d go willingly, having collected 2003’s second-best ”tour” grosses without stepping on another stage.) Committed to 75-plus fill-in gigs, the official Joey Bishop to Dion’s Carson, John seems to the Palace manor born.

High rollers get close to their money’s worth ($250 and down) with the 15-song hits set. Value-added showmanship arrives via celebrity shutterbug David LaChapelle’s staging, most effectively his co-opting of Celine’s 120-foot-wide LED screen — a CinemaScope lover’s wet dream — for illustrative short films. Here in Vegas, John can say he hopes people finally grasp what ”Daniel” is about, then let LaChapelle’s Vietnam montage drive the point home. A 2001 video that had Justin Timberlake playing Elton backstage circa the ’70s now accompanies ”Rocket Man,” ruefully reinterpreted as a cautionary stardom tale. A one-take apartment ballet, timed to ”Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” stunningly skirts the line between domestic violence and pas de deux.

There are failures of visual imagination, too. Do we need six minutes of Marilyn look-alike footage to ”get” ”Candle in the Wind”? Or any of Pamela Anderson doing a ”Bitch Is Back” pole dance in pasties? Someone might tell ’em that female-body-part balloons, a Stones-tour staple, are the last refuge of a rock scoundrel. But if the F/X falter, or the hits feel too familiar, you also get some barrelhouse piano solos you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere this far west of the Mississippi.

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